We turned around to face the voice.
It belonged to a squat woman, smiling as she walked towards us. As she came closer, I realised the smile wasn’t really a scowl from the sun in her face – it made her look like a shark that had spotted its prey.
Shekar’s face turned pale, his jaw dropped, his legs suddenly gained strength and his hands became sure.
Quick, help me.
Unsure of what he meant, I turned to him to watch him push the boat. I understood that he wanted me to push as well. We pushed amd heaved, but the boat wouldn’t budge. I just didn’t have the technique and wondered how Shekar managed this each day. Not till the lady — his wife — reach there and join in were we able to push the boat off its stand and into the ocean.
Once in the water, Shekar switched on the motor and exchanged some sharp words with her. Now he seemed mighty pleased to head into the sea.
She ran a small grocery and tea store. I asked her if she could make tea for me. She nodded and off we went.
Does he go often to fish?
If he had his way, he would never go to fish.
Why is that?
Because he doesn’t like to fish.
A fisherman who doesn’t like to fish! Nice.
Then why do you send him?
She told me Shekar had weaknesses — booze. He drank with the money he took from her. Money she didn’t have.
The only income is from the store.
But what about the fish he catches?
He never catches any fish.
She told me it was famous through Polem. Shekar was the only fisherman who went to fish each day, but came back without any catch. He was the laughing stock of the village, but she didn’t mind. As long as he was out at sea, he didn’t drink or gamble. A good tradeoff.
Then she changed subject and told me she could get me a better homestay. I knew it was time to leave.
The next day, I bumped into Shekar.
Did you catch something?
No. The dolphins ate the fish.
The next few days, Shekar’s answers kept changing. Sometimes it was the dolphins, sometimes clever fish, other times rough sea and bad fishermen. One thing never changed though – his empty nets.
One day, I didn’t ask. That’s when he told me.
I don’t fish.
What do you mean?
I pick a spot away from the others, listen to songs on the radio and when its time to return, I come back.
I was stunned and captivated. He revealed further that he didn’t like the sight of fish dying while gasping with their mouth open. As a child, he had been forced to go with his father, but from the time he was on his own, he decided he wasn’t going to fish.
But then why don’t you tell your wife?
I did try, she didn’t understand. That’s when I began drinking. It’s better this way.
Shekar – a wise man or a fool. In any case – the worst best fisherman I have met to date.